IF you're headed to Italy this European summer, the enchanting Puglia should be on your radar.
Located on the heel of Italy’s famous boot, this southern region was previously ignored in favour of more elegant northern destinations however it is now a hot spot for travellers seeking authentic and immersive experiences.
Best explored by car, there’s a host of beautiful cities to visit such as Alberobello, known as the ‘City of the Trulli’, a magical UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its 1500 conical trulli huts.
Visit the maze-like ‘White City’ of Ostuni and stroll the streets of the beautiful city of Lecce, known as the Florence of the south, which is famous for its baroque architecture and magnificent 17th century churches.
The scenic Salento is home to some of Italy’s best beaches including Porto Cesoreo’s Punta Prosciutto and Pescoluse, a 5km long sandy beach along the Ionian coast commonly referred to as the Maldives of Italy.
Don’t leave Puglia without a visit to the ancient southern Italian cave city of Matera, located on the border of Basilicata and Puglia, which was named the 2019 European Capital of Culture.
One a source of shame for the nation due to the poverty and squalid living conditions, Matera, one of the oldest continually inhabited settlements in the world, is composed of a network of caves, many of which are now sought-after boutique hotels.
Aside from being home of the mozzarella-like Burrata cheese, the locals are proud of their cucina povera - or the food of the poor – a celebrated style of cooking that involves relying on fresh, local produce.
Given Puglia has been traditionally an agricultural region, there’s an abundance of fresh produce and its long coastline and fishing tradition means seafood features heavily on the menus in seaside restaurants.
Needless to say, it’s easy to eat your way around the region.
Indulge in La Peschiera, outside of Monopoli on Puglia’s Adriatic coast, or splash out on a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the exclusive Grotta Palazzese set in a natural cave in Polignano a Mare.
Sandwiched between Monopoli and Ostuni, Osteria del Tempo Perso is also a must.
Masserias reign supreme in Puglia.
There are a plethora of these beautifully restored farmhouse hotels such as Masseria Montenapoleone, a 15-room retreat in the heart of Puglia, which produces its own olive oil and has an underground cave suite.
Less than a 10-minute drive from Ostuni, Masseria Moroseta is an upscale version of a traditional masseria set on five hectares of organic olive grove.
If staying in an authentic Trulli appeals, Trullo Sofia is fusion of the traditional and contemporary and is an easy walk from Alberobello.
For those travelling in a group, The Thinking Traveller has some exclusive accomodation options including Trulli Andrea. Set atop a hill in the middle of a two-and-a-half-hectare olive estate in the historic town of Ceglie Messapica, accomodation is spread over two restored set of trulli and is both luxurious and private.
In Matera, Palazzo Gattini Luxury Hotel is a lavish cave hotel set within in an 18th-century palace in the city’s most exclusive area.